DIY Blog Tour: Review

You're almost done. The tour's a rap, prizes are sent and everyone has been thanked as much as possible. Now is the time to sit down and think about your next tour. Before you start throwing rotten fruit at my head, hear me out.

Now is when the tour is the most fresh in your mind. Any sore spots probably still sting a bit. Over time, they will fade and you'll forget about the one crucial thing you swore you'd do next time. Don't let yourself forget these important lessons.

Write down all the tour aspects that went really well and the areas you know need to be improved. Then tuck the list away in a place where you can find it later and take a break. Trust me, you'll be glad you did this when it comes time to really plan the next tour.

And now it's time to put your feet up...but only for a minute. A blog tour is only one way to promote your book and, hopefully, you've got other plans. Remember that marketing your work isn't a sprint (though it may feel that way at times). It's your job to keep your book in front of readers. And maybe, some day, your book will take on marketing legs of its own. Every writer can dream. For now, you can be proud of a job well done.

DIY Blog Tour: Send the prizes

As soon as your tour is over, conduct the drawing for any prizes you offered to readers and send them off. Be sure to include a nice personalized note to thank them for being a part of your tour. I know it's tempting to give yourself a day off, but take another day or two and finish strong. You'll be glad you did when it finally is all done and you can relax.

Make sure you use the contest to its full advantage. 

Announce the winner(s) on your blog and the tour page. If your feed isn't too spammy, put it on your social media sites as well (use the hash tag). To keep the publicity going, invite the winner to send you a picture of them with their prize so you can share it on your blog and other social media sites.

These are all opportunities to get your book mentioned without obvious promotion. So take advantage.

DIY Blog Tour: Host thank you

I guess it's appropriate that this tip about showing appreciation falls on Thanksgiving. Enjoy your turkey. I'm thankful for all my wonderful readers this year that continue to teach me new ways to share our words with others. Happy Thanksgiving.

Once your tour is over, you'll likely want to kick off your shoes and relax. But not yet. I already mentioned a host contest. If you do this, be sure to draw a name and send the reward right away. But no matter what you do, be sure to thank each and every host individually. I realize the time this takes, but again, your tour would be nothing without them.

If possible, include numbers such as new followers or books sales that resulted from the tour. Reviewers and bloggers like to know that they are making a difference, so hearing that your tour was successful makes them more likely to sign up again in the future. 

Emails are fine, but if you have an address, a hand written thank you card would be even better.  This is all about showing appreciation and building goodwill. A strong connection built at this stage makes it much easier for you the next time you plan a tour or just need a place to do a little promotion. When you've shown yourself to be easy to work with and a genuine good guy, people will want to help you again.

DIY Blog Tour: Social media shout outs

In addition to keeping an eye on comments and stalking all those lovely new potential readers, you'll need to monitor your social media during the tour days. Keep an eye out for anyone who retweets or favorites a tour related post and be sure to thank everyone who helps spread the word. Again, this is the beauty of a hash tag. If everyone is using it, it makes it easier for you to thank them.

If you include tweetable links in the post content it makes it even easier for you to track interactions and thank everyone who is helping you spread the word.

You can reply to folks publicly to thank them, but watch out to make sure your feed doesn't become one boring string of links and thank yous. It's okay to thank folks in a group tweet or even by DM if you are following each other. It wouldn't hurt to include some non-tour related tweets during the day to keep your stream fresh.

DIY Blog Tour: Comment love

Hopefully, you'll get lots of comments on your blog tour. The more you engage the more likely this is. Don't miss the opportunity to turn a comment into a reader. Most sites allow commenters to link to their own social network site (either a blog or twitter). Be sure to click on all the links for everyone who leaves a comment and thank them for stopping by the tour.

I realize tour days can be hectic, but if you have time to take a peek around their site and comment on their own content, even better. Again, readers like to be engaged. So engage them already.

And yes, all of this is going to take a lot of time. I get that. I suggest making it known that you are going to be mostly unavailable during your tour. This is even more important if you work a day job since your interaction hours will be limited. Just remind yourself that you want to get the most productivity out of your tour as possible. These extra steps are extra, and no one will notice if you don't do them. But when you do put in the extra effort, you're likely to reap the rewards. 

DIY Blog Tour: Post pit stop

On the day of each tour stop, be sure to stop by the site and thank your tour host for participating.

Engage with readers by asking and answering questions. Even better, let the tour host know ahead of time that you'll be available during a certain hour of the day to do a rapid fire Q&A in the comment section. By making yourself accessible to readers, they are more likely to see you as a friend. Friends by other friends' books.

Another way to build buzz is to quote blog comments on your social network sites. Scan the comments for anything poignant, witty, or just plain fun. Be sure to give credit to the commenter, link back to the tour stop, and use the hash tag. Readers will remember that you cared enough about what they said to share it. Plus, who doesn't like getting a little Twitter love from an author?

Of course, like everything else, a little goes a long way. Don't try to quote everyone or your feed will turn into one big spam trap.

DIY Blog Tour: Update the tour page

You're live. Hopefully, everything is running smoothly due to your amazing organizational and communication skills. Ideally, the tour should be able to run without your interaction at all. Of course, that's not how we're going to do it. Sure, the tour could run unassisted at this point. But don't you want the biggest bang for your buck (or in this case, hard work).

As each post goes live, be sure to update the tour page with live links. As mentioned before, promote the tour stops on your blog and be sure to mention them throughout your platform with Twitter, FB, etc. and use the hash tag.

Just don't go link crazy. No one likes to feel like their being spammed with promotion links. Focus on what you are offering readers. Which tweet link would you click on?

Day Two of Book Title blog tour is live #hashtag www.bloglink.moc


The secret behind realistic fantasy world building #hashtag www.bloglink.moc

I think this is a pretty clear choice. Remember that readers don't tune in to blog tours, they tune in to content. Promote the content and you're much more likely to drive traffic to your tour stop.

DIY Blog Tour: Build buzz

Time to start building a little excitement around your tour. Use the hash tag whenever you post about your book and be sure to mention the upcoming tour with any associated contest/prizes. Mention the tour on your own site, but don't overdo it. This is done best if you can work it into the regular content of your blog.

But it doesn't hurt to point your viewers toward the tour page and highlight any top tier sites you'll be featured at. A little promo goes a long way so I wouldn't do this until a week before the tour starts. Of course, get that banner or button up so it's always visible to any blog visitors.

The key here is to put the information out there without peaking too early. If you talk about your tour for a month before it happens, no one will care anymore by the time it gets here. When it comes to promo before the launch, less is more.

DIY Blog Tour: Content emails

By now you should have all the kinks worked out with who is doing what when. You'll need to send each host an individual email including all the content they need for their post and the link to a page with this same information. Give them several ways to build their post.

Be sure to include any images (such as the banner, your picture, the cover photo). These should be included as separate attachments and not just pasted into a word document. Some blog hosting sites don't allow for images to be copied into a post. Also include all your links (to the tour page, the rafflecopter, etc.) and remind them to use the hash tag when sharing their post on Twitter or FB.

While you want to allow your host to structure their post in any way that works best for their site, a lot of hosts will be thankful if you just tell them what to post where. To that end, a sample layout of what the page should look like, along with the information posted in the same order, can be a real blessing. Just make sure your hosts know this is a suggestion and they are free to post the content however they see fit.

The main objective is to make this as easy as possible for your host. When a blogger has a good experience with an author they are more likely to work with them again in the future and tell other bloggers about their experience.

Don't forget to include all your contact information in this email (it should really be on all your emails) so your tour host can reach out if they have any questions.

DIY Blog Tour: Send your copies

If you haven't done it yet, be sure to get review copies into the hands of anyone who offered to review the book asap. Generally, it's best to do this as the requests come in, but I understand that a daily trip to the post office isn't always possible.

Don't just throw your book in a bubble mailer and call it a day. If you have any bookmarks, be sure to tuck one in. Also, including a one sheet can help the reviewer keep track of the information. This includes a picture of the book, the back cover blurb, the basic publication information (publisher, release date, page count, etc.), tour date information, and bio and head shot of you. If that all doesn't fit on one page, cut out the bio info. The goal here is to have something quick and easy for a reviewer to look at that reminds them what your book is. Keep in mind, they probably receive several of these packages every day. You want yours to stand out and move up their TBR list.

At the minimum, include a handwritten note thanking the reviewer for taking a look at your book. Each review represents hours of reading a writing, and is mostly a thankless job. You are not too busy to send a thank you note.

Even for those bloggers who didn't agree to a review, it doesn't hurt to send them a book. I don't recommend the cost of sending a physical copy to everyone, unless you've got the funds to do so. But an ebook or a "free" coupon is always a nice way to say you appreciate them. And you never know when a review you weren't expecting might pop up. 

DIY Blog Tour: Reward your hosts

Now that you have all your hosts in one spot, considering offering a drawing for them. Unless you have oodles of cash stuffed in your mattress, you probably can't afford to send them all something. But a drawing for a $25 gift card can go a long way.

By offering it at this point (when everyone has committed), you lose it as an incentive to get hosts to sign up, but it feels more like a thank you and less like a bribe. People don't like to be bribed, but they love to be thanked. Even the hosts who don't win will appreciate that you recognized their efforts. After all, without them, you wouldn't have a tour.

Even if you can't afford a host contest, make sure you are saying thank you at every opportunity. Being a book blogger can be a thankless job and yet, these individuals give countless hours to the reading community simply because they love it. A thank you is never unwarranted.

DIY Blog Tour: Confirmation

Once you've received responses from everyone, set concrete dates for each tour host and respond to everyone giving them their date and confirming the content of their tour spot. This one time, it's okay to send a mass email. Ask each host to let you know if there are any errors or if they need to change their date/content.

You don't have to send the actual content yet unless you're crunched for time. Keep in mind you want to send it early enough to give your host time to upload it, but not so far in advance the information gets lost in their inbox weeks before they need it.

Now is a good time to provide them with the link for the host page so they know where to find more information if they need it.

DIY Blog Tour: Yes and Thank You

Hopefully, you are getting plenty of positive responses from bloggers to be a part of your tour. Be sure to track all responses to your requests in your master spreadsheet as they come in. This seems like a no-brainer, but it doesn't take long before your inbox can look like a disaster zone. When you sit down to check your email, go ahead and pull up the spreadsheet. If you have a response, the page is right there to enter your info.

While you're at it, be sure to send a thank you note right away so your host knows you got their response.You can also let them know when to expect their copy of the book and post content. Since you've already put this information on your calendar, you won't be scratching your head for the information.

Now aren't you glad we did all of that organizational work ahead of time?

DIY Blog Tour: SWAG

If you're doing a giveaway or contest, gather together all the items and take a good picture that can be included on your tour schedule page and raffle copter. DO NOT wait until the tour is over and then go looking for something only to discover you can't find it. You're best off putting it all together, taking some great pictures and then boxing it up so it's ready to be shipped at the end of the blog tour. Save yourself the hassle later. Your winner will appreciate the speedy delivery.

When it comes to contests, I know most folks who have physical items keep the contest limited to US only. I can't tell you how many times I've heard non-US residents complain about this. This is especially relevant if your book is going to be available in other countries. 

I suggest spending a little less on the actual prize and splurging on shipping so you can include everyone. Folks outside of the US are so rarely included, you're likely to draw traffic simply by opening it up to them.

Once you've got the swag gathered and photographed, don't forget to spread the word. A picture of your swag pack posted on social media is sure to bring visitors to your tour stops.  Plus, friends and family are more likely to re-tweet and share an opportunity to win something than a simple post pointing readers to a tour stop. You can do this toward the end of the tour as well with a countdown to the close of the raffle.

We know that contests and drawings pull in views, so don't hide yours. Use visual images, even if it's just a picture of a gift card, to attract more readers.

DIY Blog Tour: Tour Page

Create a page on your blog or website the includes your book info (including buy link) and tour schedule. If your hosts can schedule their post, ask them for the live link so you can include this prior to the actual post date. If not, be sure to update the page with live links each day a new tour post goes up.

Unlike the page you created for your hosts, this one will be live. It's an easy way to remind regular viewers to check out your tour stops without shouting it from the rooftops. Go ahead and post your regular content then share a quick line at the bottom or top of the post.

"Today I'm over at another blog talking about world building. Check out the full tour schedule for Your Book Title."

This gets all the info in a visible spot for your fans, but keeps your regular blog visitors from feeling like they've had your tour shoved down their throats for two weeks. In case this wasn't clear, I'm saying that you'll need to continue your regular blog schedule during your tour. If you need to keep it light, that's fine, but don't abandon your blog readers just because you're doing a blog tour.

And by all means, make your tour banner or button do double duty. Include it in your side bar and have the link point straight to the tour page.

DIY Blog Tour: Banners & Buttons

The DIY Blog Tour button that starts every post is an easy way to create continuity within this blog series. The same goal can be achieved through the use of a button or banner created especially for your tour. There are lots of great free services you can use to create these that don't require any special technical expertise.

I use Pixlr to create my buttons. It's intuitive, easy to use, and free. For backgrounds, I've had a lot of luck with texturemate. They have a ton of different textures from wood and steel to dirt and fabric. And, it's free! For pictures, but sure you aren't stealing. Googling something and copying the picture is not okay. Those graphics, pictures, etc. were created by someone and you need their permission to use them. If you're looking for something safe to use (and free, do you sense a theme), I love Wikimedia.  It's well organized and every picture has very clear guidelines and how it can and cannot be used.

If, like me, you need a little hand holding, here is a great tutorial from Carrie Butler on how to use Pixlr to make your button.

In unrelated news, today is my birthday. I'm still not 40, so it's okay to celebrate.

DIY Blog Tour: Giveaways and Contests

When planning out the tour, I highly recommend including a contest or giveaway. Now's the time to get is all set up and squared away.

Rafflecopter is a great (free) resource that makes it easy to collect entries and select winners. If you use this site, you can list the same contest on multiple blogs for the duration of the tour.

Keep in mind your goal for the tour when planning any contests. If your goal is to sell x number of books, you won't be doing yourself any favors to include your book in the giveaway. Why would someone buy it now if they have a chance to win it. And if they don't buy it now, will they remember to buy it next week? Right.

If you're looking to grow you mailing list, require readers to sign up to get an entry. If you want more twitter followers, require a follow. If you're going for exposure, ask them to tweet about the contest, or pin a picture of your book cover, or add your book to the Goodreads TBR list. There are lots of actions available. Stick to what will help you achieve the goal you've set for your tour.

Gift cards are always nice and prizes relevant to your story or characters can be fun and allows for a lot of creativity. Just don't go overboard. Big prizes tend to draw a lot of entries, but you'll find that very few of them are actually your target audience. People come out of the word work to win big stuff like a Kindle Fire or iPad. They may give you their email address, but they'll unsubscribe as soon as the contest is over.

Once you've got the contest set up, don't forget to share the link with your tour hosts and include it in the listed information on your hidden tour page.

DIY Blog Tour: Tour material

While all the yes responses are rolling in, now's the time to start writing your tour material. If you are doing a mixtape tour, it's a good idea to write up your material well in advance. Depending on the number of stops you are shooting for, you're going to need a lot of material. Keep in mind that you want readers to visit each tour stop, so each one needs to have original content.

Not sure what to include. Here's a link that includes several different ideas for tour stop posts.

When it comes to pre-writing, I suggest a few interview posts (both questions and answers) and a guest post or two about your writing process, your world, your characters, etc. Don't wait on the hosts to ask you for the material to start writing. Get as much done ahead of time so you'll have time to focus on the ones that can't be pre-written.

When planning the content for your tour stops remember that blog tours have become an every day occurrence. If you want to stand out, your content needs to be original and memorable. Don't waste all the hard work and effort of organizing a tour by phoning in your posts. Put the time in to create something that will get readers talking.

DIY Blog Tour: PR Page

When bloggers agree to be a part of your tour, you're going to send them everything they need. But we all know how easy it is to lose information. I'd suggest creating a hidden page on your website or blog just for the blog tour. Include all the basic information that every blogger needs for their post  as the cover photo, blurb, buy links, bio, head shot and basic book info.

Be sure to include a schedule of when each blogger is hosting in case anyone gets confused about which day they go live.

Another section should include all of your contact information. Include all your basic links for social media and website. But also include your personal info such as a cell phone number. You want to make sure that if anyone has any last minute issues, they have no trouble getting in touch with you.

A few weeks before the tour, and again right before it starts, send a link to this page out to everyone participating in the tour. Not only will you look a professional, but you'll make life much easier on your hosts, which makes them more likely to work with you again in the future.

DIY Blog Tour: Let er rip

Now that you've got all the prep work out of the way, it's time to bite the bullet and send out those requests. This may seem like a silly item to list since it's a no-brainer. After all, you can't hop on to someone's blog unless you ask them. So today's post isn't about remembering to send requests, but giving yourself enough time to do so. After all, you'll be sending a lot of these things. WAY more than you need since not everyone will say yes.

You can't send them as a group email. Not only will they all want different information, but it's rude.

Your goal is to be personable, yet professional. This means addressing bloggers by name, not the name of their blog. And don't just send the form letter we wrote yesterday with their name filled in. Show bloggers that you've put in the leg work of scoping out their blog. You can do this by congratulating them on a recent achievement, mentioning a book you picked up based on their recommendation, or even just mentioning a recent post. You can lead into your book by referencing books similar to yours that they've reviewed in the past. The key is to show that you didn't just pull their name off some master list and shoot off an email.

And don't forget to be polite. This should go without saying, but always use please and thank you. You aren't offering them a golden goose, here. You're asking for a favor. A gracious attitude is always appreciated and never hurts.

Be sure you give yourself plenty of time to send these out. I'd say, a day or two at the minimum since it can be tedious and you'll probably want to break it up. Just be sure to keep excellent records so you don't send two requests to the same blogger.

DIY Blog Tour: Request Time

You're almost done with all the prep work. One last thing is to write your request letter. We aren't sending them yet, because the last thing you want is to waste all your hard work so far by sending out form letters.

That said, there is a lot of standard information that most, if not all, bloggers will want from you. Even if a blogger doesn't ask for something, I can't imaging a reviewer being upset that you included page count. Now is not the time to be vague about your book. Include all the pertinent info like release date, publisher, page count, etc. If you are self-publishing, don't hide it. If your book has won any awards or received starred reviews from places like Kirkus or Publisher's Weekly, now is the time to include this information, but don't go overboard. And, don't forget to include tour dates!

Be Specific. Don't beat around the bush when it comes to the asking. Bloggers are busy people and they don't have time for a four page run down of what you want. Invite them to be a part of the tour. Provide them with several options such as a book review, interview, guest post, etc. Give them the choice for what works best for their readers and always offer them a copy of the book, no strings attached. Even if they don't sign on for a review, you never know when they might pick up your book and review it.

Also, be certain all of your own personal information is included. You'd be surprised how many people fail to sign emails these days. Make sure your name, website, twitter handle, Goodreads account, FB page, etc. are all listed. Reviewers want to know that you'll be able to promote their post as well.

The idea here is to get all the basic information everyone will need in one neat and tidy place. Tomorrow, we'll get down to business.

DIY Blog Tour: Calendar

No matter how small your tour is, I suggest making a calendar. I'm not talking about a list of dates, but an actual "year of Shetland ponies" calendar. Again, the format is up to you. Write in a paper calendar, use Google, or a simple Word calendar.

In addition to marking the dates of your tour with who is hosting each date, include other don't miss dates to keep you on top of everything. Other important dates are when you need to get confirmation for the finalized tour, when to send follow-up emails, last day to send physical books, etc. 

Planning your tour can be a whirlwind of activity and it wouldn't take much to get everything off schedule. By keeping an updated calendar of what needs to happen when (and checking it daily) you can help avoid the last minute shuffles and midnight panic attacks that come with missed deadlines.

DIY Blog Tour: Organization

One of the most crucial pieces of a successful blog tour is keeping everything neat and organized. Once you start sending requests, you'll have tons of information to keep track of. So before you send that first email you need to set up a system that works for you.

Personally, I'm a fan of excel. It's easy to use, and the color options appeal to the side of me that likes things to be pretty.

I suggest making a master list for each blogger that you plan to contact. Include basic information like name, website, email, etc. This is also where you can keep track of when you sent them the request, their response and other contact dates such as when you sent them post materials, confirmation emails and thank yous.

Here's a sample of how you can structure your pages.

It doesn't matter how you decide to organize the information. Feel free to use a notebook, a PDA, or stone tablets. Whatever works best for you. Just make sure you have all this information in one place that makes it easy for you to know who you've talked to and what role they will play in the tour.

And just like all the drafts of your manuscript, make sure you back up all this information somewhere. Digging back through pages of emails to find a blogger address or figure out who is posting on Tuesday is going to waste a lot of time, right when you'll need it the most.

If you're offering a reviewer sign-up on your website or blog, consider using Google Forms. They have easy to create forms that you can add right to your site without any coding and send all the information to a spreadsheet built around the data fields in your form.

It's tedious to set up, but once the information starts flying, you'll be glad you did it.